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Espirro - Illustration for The Body

Words:

Edd Norval
April 15, 2022

Lisbon tattoo artist Cíntia Coutinho aka Espirro is artist and tattoo artist, both exclusive of one another and, at her most impressive, using the two as a means of complimenting the other. Her surreal and childlike doodles are filled with symbolism and a pastel palette, working on the body as her main medium.

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Borrowing from a feminine post-Internet palette of colour, her worlds are made up of animals, humans and shapes that are reminiscent of things that we know and recognise, but all with twists and quirks as to feel like they’re entirely imagined. It's a colourful cocktail of poetic references to life.


With a background in plastic arts, it’s easy to understand why a lot of her art looks like a mash-up of Saved By The Bell 's intro credits and ‘naive’ art - bold, but not garish, roughly drawn, yet recognisable. Although this style of art is definitely popular at the moment, there’s something nostalgic about it too. It’s like a longing for simpler times, a reclaimed youth and childhood lost in the complexities of life. It is truly nostalgic.


Much of the beauty of the work she makes is that it looks like anybody could do it - like a lot of great art - with the caveat being that, simply, they didn’t. It’s accessible and familiar, friendly and inviting, yet very uniquely hers. If you scroll through her Instagram or look through her illustrations and clothing collaborations, there’s no question about who the artist behind them is.

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Born in 1990, the era of her birth is used as a cornerstone of her work. The composition of shapes and the colours involved all hark back to youth in a pre-Internet era. Purples and teals, the yin and yang of 90s (and post-Internet) art, mix with her scribbly and expressive drawing style, executed like a doodle made whilst on the phone, each drawing is an extension of the subconscious reaches of the contemporary psyche.


We’re in a strange time, when the world we were born in is entirely unrecognisable to the one we now inhabit - from how transactions between people occur, to the media and the art we consume, all the way through to the overarching value-systems that dictate our thoughts and behaviour. Cutting through the complexity is Espirro, whose tattoos and art in general is the embodiment of ‘simpler times’, that thing we can all relate to wishing for at times.

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As co-founder of tattoo collective Fiasco, we can start to understand the artist’s working philosophy in context. Her fellow artists, who work alongside her at their private studio, share similar sensibilities, even if their artistic styles are unique. There’s anime in there, ‘ugly’ tattoos and a host of other nostalgic reference points for 90s kids.


It’s cute, witty, ironic, millennial, hipster, interesting, innovative and all manner of other contradictory terms. As an individual and as part of a collective, Espirro and Fiasco are a part of a rising tide in Lisbon’s cultural landscape, where a wave of intrigue and interest in the thriving culture could've risked oversaturation, but thanks to people and groups like these, art is kept alive and evolving.

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